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Kindle Unlimited Payout Ties Record Low $1.33 in March 2015

kindle unlimitedKindle Unlimited adoption continued to grow last month, but unfortunately it grew faster than Amazon 's willingness to fund it.

Earlier this week Amazon released the latest statistics on KDP Select, the program used to fund indie author and publisher participation in Kindle Unlimited. Amazon reported that the pool for KDP Select for March 2015 had been increased to $9.5 million. They also announced separately that the payout for each time an ebook was read had dropped to $1.33.

Grab an envelope and crunch the numbers, and you’ll see that ebooks in KDP Select accounted for about 7.14 million reads.

That is a new record for KDP Select, and compared to January 2015 it represents an increase of about a million additional ebooks being read.

The number of ebooks read by Kindle Unlimited subscribers has continued to grow ever since the program launched last July, but unfortunately the funding for KDP Select isn’t growing quite as fast. While Amazon has increased the funding each month, the increase has been kept to a minimum. As a result, the average payout continues to stay low:

kdp select chart march 2015

The payout per ebook read hasn’t exceeded $1.54 since Kindle Unlimited really got started in August 2014, and my current financial forecast is that Amazon is going to keep it that way.

Authors and publishers would be advised to plan on the payout staying low, and act accordingly.

Foner Books

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Ebook Bargains UK April 17, 2015 um 3:42 am

One can imagine the outcry if Scribd or Oyster were to cut the 70% royalty for a $4.99 to 27% as KU has done…

The direction here is clear. KU payouts will continue to be forced down, mission-creep style with occasional smoke and mirrors blips, until the price is right to make KU free to Prime members along with the already free subscription video and music.

40 million Prime members costing Amazon just a dollar a time (as our guestimate for the KU payout to level off at) per read while diverting readers away from non-Select titles where proper royalties have to be paid, is simply good business sense on Amazon’s part.

Dropping the exclusivity clause and putting *all* KDP titles into KU and free for Prime members would then be the logical extension, increasing the appeal of Prime, increasing the appeal of KU for non-Prime members paying the subscription, and saving a fortune on royalty payouts.

Paul April 17, 2015 um 9:21 am

And the advantage to authors is….?

Fbone April 17, 2015 um 1:41 pm

40 million new customers

Diana April 21, 2015 um 3:15 pm

Customers who are not subscribed to KU still have access to the same books on Amazon. They just have to pay for individual purchases instead of paying $9.99 + tax for "unlimited" reading of enrolled books.

So having all authors enrolled in KDP select doesn’t change your customer base.

Will Entrekin April 17, 2015 um 5:30 pm

The direction here is clear.

It’s not, really, and everything you said after that sentence is speculation, while everything before deliberately mischaracterizes what’s at play here.

What I find interesting is that $1.33 is how it actually rewards lower pricing. While a borrow for a $2.99 book takes in less than a sale, it’s actually more than books priced at 99c or $1.99 manage in terms of royalties.

I don’t think Amazon has any one particular ultimate goal besides the best possible experience for customers. I’d expect KU payouts to ultimately equalize at around $1 per. Given the nature of the thing (customers get 10 at a time, and give one "back" before getting another) that feels to me about right.

I just got the email confirming my cancellation of KU. For me as a reader, it was simply no longer compelling.

Diana April 21, 2015 um 3:30 pm

"One can imagine the outcry if Scribd or Oyster were to cut the 70% royalty for a $4.99 to 27% as KU has done…"

Since they hide my books (Oyster and Scribd) or don’t allow borrows (Scribd), a 70% royalty doesn’t mean anything. 70% of zero is still…let me carry the one and then…oh yes, it’s ZERO.

On the other hand $1.34 on a $0.99 book is AWESOME.

I think all books are already available to Prime customers. I have gotten two or three borrows on my NON Kdp select books over a year and a half because of Prime customers. When I put one book in KDP Select, I had a handful in a three months. Not worth it (for me) to stay in KDP select, but it’s a better system/model than KOLL.

Rick Chapman April 22, 2015 um 7:59 am

It’s amazing how people continue to go on about their "royalties" when you’re not receiving any.

You’re paying operating charge.

Rick Chapman

Mir April 21, 2015 um 8:00 pm

It’s a voluntary program. If it were involuntary (ie Amazon insisted all KDP books enroll), I’d have a huge issue with it. As long as the author has an option, then I don’t. If the payouts and rewards are not there, don’t let your book be in KU.

For authors whose books are priced .99 to 2.99–the price range for quite a number of indie offerings—the KU payout so far has paid much better than KDP royalties. So, for those indies pricing low, KU still offers more per borrow than they’d get for purchases.

I hope Amazon doesn’t force authors to be in KU, but who knows?

I think they’d lose authors. And I think that would force authors to write shorter (short stories, novelettes and novellas) for Amazon and take longer works to better paying subscriber services or book etailers.

anothername April 17, 2015 um 9:45 am

A parasite that kills the host is a failed parasite. Quality will leave Amazon KU.

inkstain April 17, 2015 um 9:57 am

We’ve got eleven full length novels that went with Scribd and Oyster who treat authors fairly.

Diana April 21, 2015 um 3:02 pm

I’m glad they treat you fairly. Because I write erotic romance, my books are hidden from customers. I can’t find them at all on Oyster and Scribd allows people to purchase them, not "borrow."

Amazon may give less visibility to erotic romance/erotica than other genres, but they don’t hide them unless they’ve been "adult" tagged.

As for KU- it’s awesome for $0.99 shorts. $1.34 borrow or even $1 is better than $0.35.

And Amazon awards top sellers each month with a bonus. (Unless I’m not remembering correctly, the highest bonus was $25K. I believe someone mentioned it on Kboards. I’ve heard figures like $2K and $5K bonuses but don’t know what the criteria are for those bonuses.)

There is a reason Amazon requires exclusivity. They couldn’t afford to pay all authors a high royalty if everyone opted in. And some people will sign up for KU simply because they know KU has exclusive authors/stories you can’t find elsewhere.

What I like about KDP select is that it’s OPTIONAL. If you don’t like it, don’t enroll your books. If it’s working for you, send some good thoughts my way!

Hugh April 22, 2015 um 5:49 am

"…some people will sign up for KU simply because they know KU has exclusive authors/stories you can’t find elsewhere."

You "Authors" are hilarious.
It doesn’t take long for readers to work out that KU is filled with the detritus that isn’t even worth $2.99. But it’s a free world, and if you want to believe that people are so desperate for "exclusive" authors/stories that aren’t good enough to be sold in the real stores with all the other ebooks, feel free.
Seriously, very few readers are going to pay an EXTRA 10 bucks a month for "exclusive" crap. You can buy some real books with that money.

More disturbing to me, you stated:
"Amazon may give less visibility to erotic romance/erotica than other genres, but they don’t hide them unless they’ve been “adult” tagged."

So are you saying big bad Oyster and Scribd are wrong to hide your titles, but Amazon are wonderful because they only hide them if you tag them "adult"?
And that you DON’T tag them as Adult?
When, in fact, Erotic Romance IS "adult", and should certainly be tagged that way. Or are you fine with children finding your Erotic Romance, as long as it means you have higher visibility, and get your precious $1.33?

Greg Stranberg April 17, 2015 um 11:01 am

May 10 and June 7 – those are the big dates when a lot of my books come off Select. It’ll be right over to D2D for about 20 of those novels (I only do fiction in Select), and I expect…not much.

The reason I made many of my books exclusive with Select a while back was because they were not selling on the other retailers. I looked at the numbers, and for 2014 Smashwords was giving me about 10% of the fiction sales that Amazon was. So I went exclusive.

What happened? A slight uptick in borrows but little else. Maybe that did help the ranking, but if that ranking boost doesn’t produce paid sales…what good is it? I suppose it can lead to another borrow, but in 6 months we’ll be lucky to get $1.20 a month. How about in a year, and what will we do when the payout is less than $0.70?

I think I’ll put about 15/20 of these books back into the wider retail pool – it’s kind of like, 'what could be worse than Select?'

Diana April 21, 2015 um 3:19 pm

What could be worse? Going wide and getting no sales.

Not mocking you, just pointing out the obvious. I tried out KU with one book (now two) but it’s not working for me. I was widely distributed from the beginning and I will stay that way.

Some people are doing very well in KDP Select. So jealous!

Greg Stranberg April 21, 2015 um 6:17 pm

Some people are, but I don’t feel I’m reaching my full sales potential with it. I’ll act accordingly.

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Lisa April 22, 2015 um 1:15 am

I’ve got my nonfiction in KDP and am seeing a fair amount of borrows but at this low payout price point I think I rather cast a wide net for my fiction and spread it across retailers.

Mir April 23, 2015 um 12:05 am

THis is what I use KU for (I subscribed the month after it debuted). This month, I read three borrowed non-fics priced at 9.99 each. I would not have bought them at that price. I am happy to borrow them. So, really, I made back my 10 bucks already and then some.

And I enjoyed the books a lot. If the author comes out with another and it’s not in KU, I will likely buy it, as I figured I saved using KU enough to justify the 9.99.

In fact, 90% of what I"ve read from KU has been non-fic. There are books I am not sure I want to buy, but KU lets me skim deeper. Quite a few I’ve not completely read, but read chapters that were of interest (on particular subjects). I do try to read or flip by past the 15% mark to make sure authors are being paid.

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jonesie May 13, 2015 um 8:51 pm

If Amazon did any piece of my marketing for me, I’d be enthusiastic about KU and the reduced royalty. Fact is, I’m the one marketing my own books, and Amazon gets 30% of paid books for being the cashier. For that $1.33, I lose the entire remainder of the market that would been equally happy to 'ring up' my book and give me 70%.

Sure, Amazon’s market share makes it a good place to list my books, but the majority of my readers would have gone to a makeshift wp page with a check out feature and I would have received about 96% after processing fees.

Mir May 14, 2015 um 10:33 pm

Actually, you pay 30% to have "shelf space" in the #1 digital bookstore in the US for buyers who trust the Amazon sellspace.

I do think that any author who wants to keep the 96% (or whatever percent) from selling it on their blogs or sites should do so. Amazon forces no one to sell their ebooks on their site. If you hate giving them 30% to handle sales (globally) and keep you within inventory, then take your books off Amazon and sell directly. Choice is great, yes? The freedom to choose how to sell rocks.

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